A weekend of FA Cup shocks and upsets is now behind us, and we focus on the return of Premier League action. Liverpool were humbled at Oldham 3-2 and now must face Arsenal at the Emirates. We’ve got all the latest news for you here:
I. Liverpool @ Arsenal: The likes of Borini, Sterling, and Sturridge were all given their chance to impress against League One relegation candidates Oldham but none of the aforementioned trio put in performances worthy of regular Premier League stars. Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing were both introduced with about half an hour to play for Liverpool, and in combination with Luis Suarez, showed the true veteran class needed in the FA Cup. Gerrard hit the crossbar, but it was too little, too late, and Oldham got the impressive victory.
Now Liverpool must focus on their fledgling Champions League pursuit. Another trip to the Europa League looks more likely, but a win at Arsenal will certainly give Brendan Rodgers’ men some renewed confidence and erase the bitter taste of the Oldham loss from their red mouths.
All eyes of course will be on Suarez and Sturridge – and their fantasy prospects shine the brightest. Borini, Sterling and Downing are set to rotate around those ‘big two,’ and with Mertesacker and Vermaelen offering little consistency at the back for Arsenal this season, you can’t expect Arsenal to keep a clean sheet. Gerrard will drive the set pieces and push on from midfield as well, but Suarez and Sturridge are hard to ignore due to form and price in the FPL, even with the extremely difficult fixture.
Arsenal have seen the emergence of the ‘old school’ Olivier Giroud – with 4 goals in his previous 2 matches – he’s in form and should start up front against Liverpool’s shaky back four. Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson could both be back in action after missing the FA Cup loss, fortifying the back four, but Podolski/Giroud/Walcott is a front three that certainly clicked a week ago at home against West Ham and has 1-2 goals in them.
I expect a close match. There have been clean sheets in recent years as well as away wins – with Arsenal winning 2-0 earlier this season at Anfield, and Liverpool winning 2-0 last season at the Emirates – courtesy of a Luis Suarez strike. Both teams need the win to keep their fight for Champions League football on course, but a score draw is a likely outcome.
Prediction: 1-1 draw
II. Southampton @ Manchester United: Sir Alex’s men beat Fulham 4-1 in the FA Cup and will be full of confidence as they take on Southampton at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Robin van Persie will earn the start – and the captain’s armband from most fantasy managers – after getting his rest in the FA Cup.
David de Gea is still quite the intriguing prospect in goal from a FPL perspective for Manchester United if he can keep his tenuous place over Lindegaard. He comes in priced at just 5.5m and Manchester United should start keeping more clean sheets. That said, he’s made his fare share of blunders this season.
With Ashley Young out due to a knee problem, Antonio Valencia (8.3m) and Nani (8.2m) could see extended action – along with Shinji Kagawa (7.9m) in Sir Alex’s midfield, but all are rest/rotation threats. Valencia and Nani have shown brilliant fantasy consistency in the past when given the game time. Perhaps one of them will shine against Southampton.
A straightforward win for the home side here, with RVP and Rooney in on the action.
Prediction: 3-0 Manchester United win
III. Studs & Duds: Chelsea are at Reading, so Juan Mata continues as a stud despite Reading winning four straight games in all competitions and scoring 12 goals in those four matches. Chelsea defenders are slightly less appealing due to Reading’s form and Chelsea’s recent instability at the back, but the likes of Ivanovic and Cahill are still studs. An interesting potential stud option is Ryan Bertrand – who costs justs 3.9m – but is an extremely risky play. While he won’t play left back over Ashley Cole, he has been used as a left winger – out of position since he’s classified as a defender in the FPL game, in recent weeks. With Eden Hazard suspended, Marko Marin failing to impress, and Victor Moses in Africa, Bertrand could start 2 or 3 league games in the coming weeks and at just 3.9m – that’s quite the bargain. Potential stud but one that comes with a massive amount of rotation risk, especially as Ramires or Oscar could be used in wide areas, and Yossi Benayoun and Florent Malouda- two former Premier League stars, are fit and available too.
Gareth Bale is a stud at Norwich, as is Clint Dempsey, and to a lesser extent Jermain Defoe – who is touch and go with a hip problem. Tottenham are keen on Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo, so even if Defoe does play through the pain against Norwich, he may lose his long term stud status with increased competition and Adebayor’s return next month from the African Cup of Nations.
Manchester City players are studs at QPR – despite the narrow pitch and the fact that Harry Redknapp’s men have ‘played up’ against some of the bigger sides like Chelsea this season. Tevez/Aguero/Dzeko all have a goal in them, as does David Silva. Studs. At the back, it looks like Kompany and Nastasic could miss out due to injury – both duds, while Zabaleta is in form and at 6.0m, continues as a season long stud.
Aston Villa are home to Newcastle in a, who would’ve thought we would say this – a relegation six pointer. Two big clubs that surely won’t go down, will they? Benteke, the former Funny Feeling Friday, is having an excellent season and is a stud. Yohan Cabaye, the successful FFF selection last week is a stud if he can shrug off his groin problem. Cisse and new signing Yoan Gouffran will look to score for Newcastle and are on the stud/dud fence.
Sunderland and Swansea face off in the battle of budget friendly stud selections Michu and Steven Fletcher. You could do way worse than employing both of those in your fantasy side in the medium or long term. Studs.
Everton are home to West Brom so Jelavic, Fellaini and Baines are studs on paper, but West Brom beat Everton 2-0 at home in September so they’ll have a bit of confidence entering this one despite the public outburst of star Peter Odemwingie.
Fulham are home to West Ham – and while neither of these teams are creating enough chances, both should be safe from the drop, so with little pressure on either side here, you have to think the likes of Berbatov and Ruiz can find the back of the net. An embarrassing 4-1 loss at Old Trafford keeps the Cottagers players on the stud/dud fence but West Ham have been poor on the road so trust in Berbatov despite the woeful recent Fulham displays.
The budget friendly and sometimes reliable Southampton and Reading defenders are all duds this week despite their recent clean sheets – Shaw, Clyne, Harte, Federici, etc. should be benched facing Top 4 opposition.
IV. Gameweek 24 Best Eleven:
D: Rafael – Baines – Zabaleta
M: Silva – Mata – Fellaini – Bale
F: RVP – Aguero – Benteke
Subs: Schwarzer – Bertrand – Michu – Assou-Ekotto